Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in Sunday’s decisive second round, according to state media, with more than 80% of ballots open.
Erdoğan won 53% of the vote, against 47% for Kılıçdaroğlu, according to calculations by the state agency Anadolu News. Anka, an independent news agency, gave Erdoğan a slimmer lead, at 50.6%.
Erdoğan defied expectations in the first round of the presidential on May 14, defeating Kılıçdaroğlu, who represents a six-party opposition alliance, and coming just short of the majority needed to score an outright victory despite a severe cost-of-living crisis.
Sundays vote was presented by Erdoğan and Kılıçdaroğlu as a referendum on the future of Turkey. Kılıçdaroğlu pledged to revive the economy by reversing many of Erdoğan’s policies, while returning the country to a parliamentary democracy from the executive presidency system introduced after a 2017 referendum.
Erdogan managed to maintain the support of his base of devout and conservative voters across the Anatolian heartland of the country in the first round of the contest with a strong emphasis on family values, the fight against terrorism and his successes in giving to the Turkey a more prominent role on the world stage since becoming in 2003. He has also launched numerous personal attacks against Kılıçdaroğlu, who led the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the country’s largest opposition group , for 13 years.
The president’s parliamentary bloc, a coalition that includes his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), also exceeded expectations, retaining its majority in the legislature.
“I support Erdoğan 100%. If I could, I would vote for him 10 times,” said Melek, a 32-year-old mother who teaches the Quran at a private religious school in Istanbul. “I grew up with the CHP mentality until I was 10 years old, and we suffered a lot, those of us who want to live an Islamic life,” she said. “Erdoğan freed us.”
But a sign of the harshness of the campaign, tensions erupted on Sunday in some polling stations. Videos posted on Twitter claimed to show clashes between supporters of Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdoğan outside schools in Istanbul and Ankara, and a scuffle between AKP and opposition Green Left observers at a polling station in Istanbul. the province of Malatya.
CHP officials said two of their election observers were physically assaulted in Şanlıurfa province when they spoke out against alleged irregularities. A CHP employee suffered broken ribs following a dispute over how to register a vote in Istanbul, Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the party’s chairman in the city, told reporters.
Kılıçdaroğlu, who initially ran a campaign that promised “spring will come” after two decades with Erdoğan at the helm, has since the first round switched to a more forceful campaign, your nationalist. The 74-year-old has, for example, vowed to deport millions of immigrants, seeking to tap into the frustration of many Turks over the more than 3 million Syrian refugees who have arrived in the country in recent years.
“Of course, I voted for Kılıçdaroğlu. He stands for secularism,” said Gülümser, a retired teacher in Ankara. “I know the value of the republic.”
Kılıçdaroğlu received a blow when Sinan Oğan, the nationalist eminence who came third in the first round of elections, recently threw his support behind Erdoğan, calling on his voters to support the incumbent president.
International election monitors said the first round of elections was largely free, but they also noted that the campaigns were far from fair. Erdoğan relied heavily on state resources, offering freebies such as free gasoline and 10 GB of internet to students. He also raised wages for public sector workers and raised the minimum wage.
The country’s government-affiliated media provided comprehensive coverage of a series of Erdoğan events, including the opening of a gas processing facility in the Black Sea and the inauguration of a warship.
If Erdoğan manages to score a victory, giving him another five-year term as president, attention should quickly shift to the country’s $900 billion economy.
The lira hit a record high this week, topping 20 against the U.S. dollar, as investors worried about Erdoğan’s unconventional economic policies, which included steep rate cuts despite acute inflation.
A fall in Turkey’s foreign exchange reserves, which has accelerated in recent weeks, has amplified the sense of concern among international and local analysts.
Erdoğan said this week that the country’s economy, financial system and banks remained “sound”, adding that unidentified Gulf states had provided funds to ease the pressures.